FLORIDA – The United States Department of Education (USDOE) says Florida is the only state in the country to leave billions of dollars in education funding on the table.
This funding comes from the US bailout, and states were supposed to submit a plan to the federal government indicating how the money would be spent.
But Florida still hasn’t submitted a plan, and southwest Florida school districts are wondering why.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) received a letter from USDOE, stating that “FDOE’s failure to meet its responsibilities is delaying the release of essential ARP ESSER resources needed by school districts and schools.”
“ESSER” stands for Emergency Aid for Elementary and Secondary Schools.
These resources represent $ 2.3 billion in school funding to help districts struggling due to the pandemic. When we contacted FLDOE to ask why the agency had not submitted a plan, we were told, “At present, no district has expressed a need for funding that cannot be met with resources. currently available.
But Lee County School Board President Debbie Jordan said they had not received an application to apply for the funding.
“We are receiving this from the state, which we haven’t received yet. So we couldn’t have articulated anything,” Jordan said.
But Jordan said if they could have articulated anything, it would be that the money is needed.
“I can’t imagine a district denying funds that could be used to benefit students, staff, anything. I just don’t get it at all,” Jordan said.
So far, Lee County has received over $ 135 million in ESSER funding, Collier County has received over $ 61 million, and Charlotte County has received over $ 44 million.
Florida Gulf Coast University political science professor Peter Bergerson said he does not believe in FLDOE when he says the additional funds are not needed.
He thinks it’s political.
“This is a dispute between Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Education here in Florida, and President Biden and the US Department of Education in Washington DC,” Bergerson said.
Bergerson said the dispute began when the USDOE promised to reimburse school districts that lost FDOE funding when they imposed mask warrants.
But Jordan said she hoped the funding for schools wouldn’t be used as political football.
“I certainly hope that’s not the case, because at the end of the day we have to look for what’s best for all the kids and all of the districts in Florida,” Jordan said.